Lost Odyssey

Lost Odyssey, developed by Mistwalker, produced by Microsoft, for the Xbox 360.

Absolutely amazing game. If you like Final Fantasy, you should play this game. It plays just like a Final Fantasy game, its story is like a Final Fantasy story, and indeed is produced by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy. And to top it off, Nobuo Uematsu created another of his amazing scores for the game.

The story centers (initially; the the other characters come into the forefront later on) on Kaim, a 1,000 year old immortal working as a mercenary. He has lost all his memories of the past 1,000 years, except for the haunting dream of a young girl jumping off a cliff into the ocean below. The game begins with an all out war between Uhra and Kent, with Kaim working on the side of Uhra. Disaster strikes the battle field as a giant meteor appears over the battle field and rains down lava onto the unsuspecting armies below, annihilating everyone. Kaim, as an immortal, is the lone survivor, and is sent to the Uhran council to give a report of the battle. The council suspects the meteor is the result of a leak from Grand Staff, a large magic engine being constructed by the sorcerer Gongora, and they send Kaim to investigate. Along with Kaim they send another immortal named Seth, who has also lost her memories; Gongora secretly sends along a man of his own - a black mage named Jansen.

As the story unfolds, the party gains 2 more immortals (including the Queen of Numara), and 4 more mortals (including the king of Uhra), eventually giving you a 9 member party, 5 of which can be used in combat simultaneously. Strangely, all of the immortals have lost their memories at some point, including memories of each other. 1,000 years ago they were all sent into this world for some purpose, which they have also forgotten, but by coming into this world, they became immortal. Throughout the game, Kaim slowly recovers his memories in a series of "dreams" that trigger after specific events, or when Kaim goes to certain locations in the game (Seth and Ming also have a dream or two related to the main story). Most of these dreams are unrelated to the story at hand, and are simply glimpses into Kaim's life. Unfortunately they are unanimated text stories set to music and simple backgrounds, with the occasional sound effect. Fortunately, they're extremely well written, interesting, and often very moving stories.

The immortals in the game are just that, and they can't completely die. This means that in combat, if an immortal goes down, in 2 rounds or so, they'll automatically revive. On top of that, immortals have the wonderful ability to learn every skill in the game, either from the mortal characters, or from accessories. They have a maximum of 30 skill slots to use (eventually, after you use slot seeds or items to expand the number), and really, that's more than enough to get by. Immortals learn skills by skill linking to mortal skills, or equipping accessories, and then gaining the skill points (through combat) required to learn the skill. Mortal characters have a set skill progression based on their character type (for example, Jansen will learn all levels of black magic, and abilities like double cast), and a limited amount (usually 1) of slots to equip an accessory.

Along with accessory slots is the ring slot, which allows all the characters to equip a single combat ring. These allow for special combat capabilities such as elemental weapon damage, increased critical chances, HP/MP absorption, stealing, etc. In combat, when a character with a ring makes a physical attack, you must hold the right trigger on the controller as a ring appears on the screen, and release it at the right moment to match up with a smaller ring to acquire a "good" or "perfect" hit. A "good" hit will allow for partial success of the ability equipped, while a "perfect" almost always guarantees the ability, and often increases damage as well. A "bad" hit allows for no special effects.

The game has all the elements you'd expect from a Japanese RPG. Scantily clad ladies, slightly annoying side kicks, what I like to call a Final Fantasy style attack menu (much like all brands of tissue are often referred to as Kleenex), bonus secret boss fights, bonus dungeons, ultimate weapons (which are actually remarkably easy to obtain), an arena type area (called the Backyard), air ships (well, boats, but one of them does fly, and dives under water), and a decent amount of plot twists and emotional moments. A 25-30 minute ending scene tops it all off, rather nicely wrapping up the characters' stories, and even giving us a nice little celebration event to round things off.

Good story, interesting characters, great soundtrack, amazing visuals, fantastic game. Definitely a must play for RPG fans, at the very least. I sunk about 100 hours into it myself. Beware the "new game plus" save, however. Normally this means you get all your items, levels, skills, and...well everything except story things (like the characters you'll gain through the story). Not this time; you'll start at level 50, but you won't have any of your possessions. So you'll still have to go through and gather everything again, it'll just go smoother. By the way, if you're nearing the end of the game and need some quick levels (and you're around level 40 or 50), stop by the bonus dungeon called The Temple of Enlightenment and run around there for a while. You'll gain a level virtually every combat you enter (until you hit level 70 or 80), and your skill points will go up quickly as well. If you want a challenge at the end of the game though, keep your levels closer to 60 or so, not 80.

Oh, side note - the game comes on 4 discs (packaged rather carelessly on a single spindle, with the 4th disc in a paper sleeve). While you can get a good amount of play out of the game, this is mostly because there are 4-5 different language tracks to listen to the game in.

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